Qualitative Data Re-use and Secondary Analysis: Researching In and About a Crisis

Tarrant, Anna and Hughes, Kahryn (2021) Qualitative Data Re-use and Secondary Analysis: Researching In and About a Crisis. In: Qualitative and Digital Research in Times of Crisis. Policy Press. ISBN 9781447363798

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Qualitative Data Re-use and Secondary Analysis: Researching In and About a Crisis
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The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest global crisis of an era, rewriting norms and expectations woven into the social fabric of everyday life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, questions about the differential economic, social and relational impacts of this crisis have preoccupied social science researchers, policy-makers and service providers across the globe in 2020. The pandemic, and various forms of lockdown imposed in most majority and minority world contexts, has dramatically altered our lives, albeit in different ways. Like other times of crisis, such as the 2008-2012 global economic recession, these unfolding dimensions of rupture and change preoccupy socio-historical researchers now and will do so long into the future.
Social scientists have a unique and imperative role in advancing knowledge of the unfolding impacts of COVID-19 including how these new social conditions are affecting people’s lives, needs, attitudes and behaviours. Yet the changes wrought by the crisis have also simultaneously altered the conduct of social sciences research, placing new restrictions on how new knowledge may be produced. In this chapter, we consider how the re-use of qualitative data and its preservation has become especially pertinent as part of an important repertoire of research methods. Our position entails a more nuanced ethical sensibility towards the archiving and reuse of existing research data in the context of capturing the evolving and uneven impacts of crises and understanding the social contexts from which they emerge. We therefore argue for, and raise awareness of, the tremendous value and potential for qualitative data re-use via the associated methodology of qualitative secondary analysis (or QSA) and make a case for data preservation and archiving.
We are prompted to write this chapter because, while there has been significant innovation in methods of qualitative data re-use and QSA over the past two decades, these have not traditionally been considered as part of the ‘go to’ methodological repertoire for qualitative, depth engagement (e.g., interviews, participatory methods). In the early stages of the national lockdown, there was a proliferation of work newly engaging with the various potentials of digital research methods and resources for research. We contribute to these developments to ensure that side-lining of valuable and relevant resources can be avoided in the post-pandemic research landscape through the promotion of methods of qualitative data reuse. Now, more than ever, there is a need to address the under-use of existing qualitative data, particularly as lockdown and social distancing continues to complicate, and even confound, face-to-face fieldwork for the foreseeable future.
To develop our discussion, we organise this chapter around four main sections and aims. We begin by reflecting on adaptations to research methods following the imposition of lockdown and enforced social distancing in March 2020. We do so to position data re-use and secondary analysis alongside primary forms of research that often take place face-to-face, or increasingly, via digitally mediated forms of engagement. Second, we report on the multiple ways that we have engaged with existing qualitative data to generate new substantive and methodological knowledge in the formulation of new research directions. While the work we discuss pre-dates the pandemic and social distancing policy measures, recent events have illuminated the ‘added value’ of working with existing data for researchers working at a ‘remove’. Indeed, existing data provide essential context to the pandemic and an important baseline to emergent COVID-19 specific data that is currently being generated. Third, we outline some of the opportunities and challenges that secondary analysts must consider when working with existing qualitative data and make a case for an ethical sensibility towards data re-use and preservation. We conclude with useful links to established datasets and archives both in the UK and worldwide, that provide access to baseline resources for work of this kind.

Keywords:COVID-19, qualitative secondary analysis
Subjects:L Social studies > L300 Sociology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:46554
Deposited On:08 Oct 2021 09:02

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